Thursday, March 31, 2011

The Parable of the Net (Matthew 13: 47-51)

 “Once again, the kingdom of heaven is like a net that was let down into the lake and caught all kinds of fish.  When it was full, the fishermen pulled it up on the shore. Then they sat down and collected the good fish in baskets, but threw the bad away.  This is how it will be at the end of the age. The angels will come and separate the wicked from the righteous  and throw them into the blazing furnace, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.   “Have you understood all these things?” Jesus asked.  “Yes,” they replied.  Matthew 13: 47-51

The first thing that comes to mind when you read this parable is that when we die, we will all be taken from this familiar world like fish taken from the water in a net.  Good will be sorted from bad, righteous from wicked, and the bad will be discarded into a blazing furnace where they will suffer.  The good will be collected in baskets for use by God.  Jesus then asks his listeners: "Do you get it?" and the listeners answer: "Yes".

I think that sums it up pretty well.  I know from past experiences that the words of the Bible are unique in that they are both words to live by and they are living words.  What I mean by "living words" is that although the words do not change, the depth of wisdom and understanding that you receive each time you read the same passage or story can most certainly grow.  I don't know how it works for others but for me, sometimes I just have a simple basic understanding when I read a passage, like now with The Parable of the Net, yet I feel certain that at some point in my life I will read the same verses and see so much more.  I will visit The Parable of the Net again.

For now, it is important for me to realize that even with the grace that Jesus has won for us on the cross, God expects us to be good.  I have come to the belief that we are good because the sacrifice of Christ but maybe we need to be reminded to keep on trying.  And maybe the message provides a way for Jesus to encourage us when we encounter people who seem to enjoy tearing down or discouraging others instead of building up and encouraging those around them.

Prayer:  God thank you for reminding us to be good.  Please remind me to be a positive influence on those around me and lead me away from being negative.  Father, I also ask that each time I revisit your Word I find deeper meaning and new understanding of the timeless wisdom found in Your Living Word.  Amen 

Monday, March 28, 2011

The Parables of the Hidden Treasure and the Pearl (Matthew 13: 44-46)

 “The kingdom of heaven is like treasure hidden in a field. When a man found it, he hid it again, and then in his joy went and sold all he had and bought that field.  “Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a merchant looking for fine pearls.  When he found one of great value, he went away and sold everything he had and bought it.  Matthew 13:44-46

What is heaven like?  It is so wonderful that when you discover it, you realize that everything else pales by comparison.  Imagine getting everything that you strive for here on earth - wealth, physical beauty, athletic ability, academic ability,  that cool car, that awesome mansion, etc.  Whatever you can imagine - if you gained all of that and then "discovered" heaven, you would trade it all for heaven.  In fact, once you focus on the treasures that come from following Christ, you realize that all other earthly goals and treasures are hollow and meaningless without putting Christ/God/heavenly things first.

All power, all glory, all treasures originate from God!  Thank you God for all the blessings that I have received and all that I will receive today!  May you give me the wisdom to use these blessings according to Your Will.  Amen 

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

The Parables of the Mustard Seed and the Yeast (Matthew 13:31-33)

 He told them another parable: “The kingdom of heaven is like a mustard seed, which a man took and planted in his field.  Though it is the smallest of all seeds, yet when it grows, it is the largest of garden plants and becomes a tree, so that the birds come and perch in its branches.”

He told them still another parable: “The kingdom of heaven is like yeast that a woman took and mixed into a large amount of flour until it worked all through the dough.”  

Matthew 13: 31-33

These are a two very short and simple parables.  Both parables  basically tell us that wondrous things can come from very small beginnings.  A tiny seed or working a fine powder into some flour can produce useful things: a tree for birds to perch in or the beginnings of bread.  Likewise, even the simplest of the wisdom of the Bible or the smallest act of kindness can grow to change the world.

The Parable of the Mustard Seed
"The kingdom of heaven is like a mustard seed, which a man took and planted in his field.Though it is the smallest of all seeds, yet when it grows, it is the largest of garden plants and becomes a tree, so that the birds come and perch in its branches."

In the Judeo-Christian tradition we tend to think of "heaven" as a place we go after we die if we have been good.  If that is what you believe, I think that is certainly a valid thought.  However, I don't think it is the only way of thinking about heaven.  The minister I grew up listening to much of my life, Reverend D.L. Dykes - First United Methodist Church - Shreveport, lamented more than once in a sermon that it was far too easy for people to readily believe that you could build your own hell on earth  and yet they would too easily overlook the possibility of heaven on earth.  Is heaven a much better distinct place from this world? Absolutely!  Does that stop us from praying to God in the Lord's prayer "Thy Will be done on earth as it is in heaven . . . ."? Nope.  So what does this discussion have to do with the verse: "The kingdom of heaven is like a mustard seed, which a man took and planted in his field."

The kingdom of heaven is described as something that grows from a small seed that a man takes and plants in his field.  I believe that if you take in the Words of the Bible and plant them in your heart and nurture them in your daily living that it will grow into a large tree like garden plant that benefits others.

I believe that if you nourish the small seed of a prayer into a life of praying that it can grow into something much larger that provides for you and others.

I believe that if you take the smallest seeds of a single blessing and nurture and grow that single blessing into a life of accepting and giving blessings that that is very much like the kingdom of heaven.

Can you have heaven on earth? No, but you can have something "like" the kingdom of heaven on earth.  Everything falls short of the kingdom of heaven and everyone's life fall short of the life of Jesus but, we are all called to follow Christ and so we should do our best to follow the Will of God as if His Will dictated our every action like it does in heaven.

The Parable of the Yeast
“The kingdom of heaven is like yeast that a woman took and mixed into a large amount of flour until it worked all through the dough.” 

Yeast causes dough to rise.  The kingdom of heaven is described to us, it's rules are laid out for us, stories to help us understand it are all in the Bible.  Read the Bible daily and some of that "yeast" that will help you rise is worked into you, you blob of dough.  Act selflessly, abiding by the direction that the Bible leads you in and more heavenly yeast is worked into your soul.  Accept blessings/acts of kindness from others and life becomes very much like heaven on earth.

The Parable of the Mustard Seed and the parable of the Yeast taken together
It is possible that these two parables were kind of lumped together simply because both parables are very short.  That is why you and I might lump them together but, since I believe that this is the perfect inspired word of God, I suspect that these two parables are lumped together for a reason.  There is something clearer in Jesus' message by thinking of these two parables closely together.  (I think I just set myself up to comparing each of the parables and thinking about how Jesus arranged the parables  in a certain order and why explanations of the parables are place where they are placed in this chapter.)  But, why are these two parables place so closely together.  You may have some better ideas than I do.  Seeds and yeast are both small.  Both must be cared for or each could die and produce nothing.  Both seeds and yeast the crucial element in producing a food product.  Both tiny mustard seeds and yeast are so small that either could be passed up without notice.  It takes some understanding to know how to get anything at all from a tiny seed or a tiny powdery micro-organism.  Neither is man-made but man benefits greatly from both.  So, what is the kingdom of heaven like?